When you apply to college, you think it will be the time of your life. But when you are accused of sexual misconduct or violating Title IX, it can feel like the world is crashing down around you. All your hopes and dreams of the future can disintegrate in an instant. You might feel confused and not know how to move forward. What are your options? This is why working with an attorney advisor from the moment you are notified of the allegation is so important. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked for years to help college students defend themselves against such accusations. You do not have to fight this battle alone. The Lento Law Firm can help.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific standard that all federally funded colleges and universities must uphold when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence on their campus. These standards include:
- Clear and immediate procedures for sexual misconduct allegations
- Designated personnel to handle instances of sexual violence
- In Title IX hearings, the standard of evidence should be “more likely than not” or “preponderance of evidence”
- Both parties involved should have access to the same procedures – advisors, appeals, and presentation of the evidence
- Retaliation protection
Old Dominion University is dedicated to creating a safe space for its students, staff, and faculty, regardless of their gender. As a federally funded university, they define gender to include sex, gender, identity, gender expression, transgender, and sex stereotyping. In addition, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation are prohibited – as the federal regulation explained above.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct?
After an allegation of sexual misconduct or another Title IX violation, Old Dominion University will investigate the allegation unless both parties provide voluntary informed and written consent to resolve the issue informally. During the investigation proceeding, you have the right to have an advisor present, but they will not be able to speak on your behalf. They will, however, be able to create a strategic defense and advise you during the proceedings.
To begin, a team of two investigators from the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity will conduct an impartial investigation into the complaint. Then the respondent and the complainant will receive written notice of the time and place for the investigation proceeding to be performed. The university's goal is to complete hearings and appeals within 75 days of the complaint's receipt. Additionally, the university makes a point to state that the burden of proof is on the university, and the respondent will be presumed not responsible for the alleged sexual misconduct or Title IX violation. Both respondent and complainant will have equal opportunity to present relevant evidence and witnesses and inspect or question the other side's evidence and witnesses.
Before the investigation ends, the complainant and respondent, and their advisors, will review all evidence obtained for the investigation. You will have ten days to submit a written response to the evidence. At the end of the investigation and at least ten days before the hearing, the parties will receive a report stating the facts of the investigation. The respondent will also receive another notice for the hearing and appeal procedures.
Within ten days of receiving this report, the university allows you to respond in writing. The hearing officers will consider this response, but no other documentation or evidence is allowed after this point.
After this investigation, a hearing will take place to determine responsibility for the accusations of sexual misconduct or Title IX violation. Old Dominion University applies the preponderance of the evidence standard when deciding whether Title IX has been violated. This means they must prove that it is more likely than not that the alleged conduct violated the regulation. Once the hearing finishes, written notice of its outcome will be simultaneously sent to the respondent and complainant. It will include:
- The allegations of conduct
- A description of the steps taken to address the formal complaint
- An analysis of the application of the school's Title IX policy to the facts
- A decision of responsibility for each allegation, including the finder's rationale and facts that support the decision
- How to appeal
Once the university makes its decision, it will impose sanctions on the respondent. These sanctions will match the degree of the sexual misconduct or other Title IX violation and can range from a simple reprimand, loss of privileges, termination of a housing agreement, to suspension from student organizations, suspension from the university for up to 2 years, complete expulsion, and revocation of admission or degree.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
Every student has the right to appeal the hearing proceeding decision. This appeal must be made in writing and filed within 15 calendar days from the date the written notice of the hearing outcome was issued. An appeal may only be made for the following reasons:
- A procedural irregularity that affected the outcome
- Newly discovered evidence that might affect the outcome
- The Title IX personnel had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome
Additionally, all documents or evidence to be considered must be included in your written appeal. Both parties have the opportunity to present relevant information in the appeal. Once the university decides on the appeal, it is final and cannot be appealed further.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
If you or someone you love has been accused of sexual misconduct or another Title IX violation by Old Dominion University, the consequences can be life-long. For students falsely accused and found not responsible, the harm to their reputation may already be done. And for students found responsible, at an absolute minimum, it could disrupt not only your current school schedule by removing you from labs or classes where you would come into contact with the victim. More likely, however, a finding of responsibility and consequent sanctions will tarnish your transcripts, and with that, your opportunities, for years to come if you are suspended or expelled. Such sanctions related to separation will need to be explained on internship and graduate applications and even some job applications. Working with an attorney advisor will ensure the best possible outcome for your situation. Attorney Lento's goal is always to create a solid strategic defense that mitigates any negative consequences and keeps your reputation intact. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help.